Did you inherit a chamber that was a mess? Maybe you have a brand-new chamber. Either way, you need to know what to do first to get it straightened out or on the right track.
In this extensive article, we’ve put together many of the most common things you’ll need to do to bring your chamber up to speed and ensure it’s ready to be the voice of business.
Update the Chamber Vision and Mission Statements
Begin at the beginning. A vision and mission statement will help you weigh everything you do–or are thinking of doing– against your goals. It sets a standard for the chamber of when to proceed or try something new.
With every proposed new undertaking, hold it up to your vision and mission and ask if it fits within what you are trying to accomplish. If it does, go for it. If it doesn’t, you have a viable excuse for leaving the “opportunity” for someone else.
Wondering how to create a mission statement? Check out this post on what to consider when writing your chamber mission statement.
The strategic plan is as essential as the vision and mission statements for the same reason–it provides a sense of direction. The chamber’s strategic plan will chart a course of action for you for the year or longer.
In most chambers, it’s something you’ll put together with the help of the board. There are many formats it can take but a common one will list main objectives, detail a few tactics that support those objectives, and list action steps to help you achieve those tactics.
For instance, one objective may be to increase member retention. Here’s how you would go about mapping your goals and actions out:
Objective #1: Increase member retention by 10%
- Tactic #1: Official onboarding program
- Action step #1: Select email marketing software
- Action step #2: Create and implement email drip campaign for onboarding
- Action step #3: Implement mentor program and pair up new members with veterans
- Tactic #2: Ambassador program outreach
- Action step #1: create documentation and training around new ambassador program–what it is, who should apply, what they will do
- Action step #2: Recruit 25 volunteer ambassadors
- Action step #3: Train ambassadors and create monthly goals for touchpoints (such as reach out to two members a day and log interaction into CMS)
- Tactic #3: Measure success
- Run numbers on member retention before implementing the program so you can compare them post-implementation
- Assess what worked and what didn’t work
- Create a plan/set an additional goal for member retention in the future
Learn more about how to create a strategic plan here.
Responsibilities Statement or Agreement
Many new chamber presidents and CEOs assume the board members know everything they need to know about being a board member. And that’s an easy assumption to make, especially if they were there before you. But if the chamber is a mess, financially distressed or experiencing internal strife, it’s definitely time for a review of responsibilities.
It often starts with confusion or a lack of boundaries over what a board chair or members should be doing versus what the chamber president or executive director is in charge of.
In order to reduce this confusion, it can be helpful to dig up (if you’re an existing chamber) or create (if you’re new or don’t already have one) a responsibilities statement or agreement.
In this document, you want to specify the individual roles in your chamber. What does the CEO do and what falls on the chair? What does the executive board handle and what does the full board do? Making sure everyone understands these differences can save a lot of frustration and misunderstanding.
You may also want to create an expectations document with this. An expectations doc will explain what is expected in each role as well as the qualifications to hold the position. For instance, meeting attendance may be an expectation and you may require someone to be on the executive board in another role before they run for board chair. This document can help people understand what they should be doing or what’s involved in the leadership role.
You’ll want to create similar documents or notes on each position in your chamber and all committees.
Want more help in creating these statements? We’ve written a series to help you clarify roles. Start with I’m a Chamber Board Member, Now What?
This is the governing document for the chamber on how things get done.
Bylaws are created with the board and help in streamlining processes and ensuring there is a good understanding of how the chamber operates. Things like elections, audits, and other pertinent details are contained in this vital document.
Most chambers will update this document every couple of years. If there’s something contained in it that should change more often than that, place it in a policy manual that it can be updated as needed and does not require the full board to update it like the bylaws would.
Here are a few things you should be thinking of when you’re updating chamber bylaws.
Passwords and Logins
This is vital and while cybersecurity experts would frown on a written list of passwords and logins, you must find a way to ensure the people who need this information have it. Use a password service or put the list in a password-protected document. Do NOT use sticky notes on your monitor, especially if it’s in a public office.
Do not just assume that when someone’s time with the chamber has come to an end that they will give you what you need to log in. Many chamber professionals have had to deal with individuals who refuse to give up vital information. You don’t want to have to start over or lose access to assets you own.
While we’re talking about passwords and logins, don’t forget a list of important account numbers and contract information like your bank account or Federal ID# or a contract for services through a particular time period such as trash removal. Password services such as LastPass provide a secure place to store notes like these. Making sure this critical information is all in one place can make your job, and those who come after you, much easier.
Finally, it’s good practice when setting up accounts of any kind not to use personal information for logins and password prompts. While you may intend to be with the chamber forever, that isn’t always the way it turns out. You don’t want to have to share your personal information with the next person. So instead of creating a login under your email, use the contact@thechamber address.
Instead of setting a password reminder with your wedding anniversary date, use the chamber founding date. Like the rest of these suggestions, a little time spent upfront, will save you time in the long run and make your operations more efficient.
Have you ever heard the saying that a goal without a plan is just a wish? Well, an organization without a budget is just asking for trouble. How will you know if you’re on target for expenses and revenue if you don’t have a budget (and copies of past budgets, for that matter)?
Work with the board to create a written budget and ensure it is a working document that you refer to often. Your treasurer should also be bringing it to board meetings and keeping it in everyone’s awareness.
Contacts and Updates
You need a database of members and nonmembers. Plus, you want that database/software to allow you to track every time a member of your staff or a chamber volunteer contacts that individual. Ideally, you could set ticklers/reminders to ensure you follow up on outstanding issues or questions.
Make sure this database is accessible to more than just one person on your staff (see passwords). Otherwise, you could lose access to valuable information.
Your contacts list should also include legislative contacts and local officials. You may want to consider listing these on your website as well.
You need a historic events calendar as well as a current events calendar. You’ll also want a calendar of:
- all important dates for payments, dues, bills, renewals
- member renewals by month
- content and when you need it (such as creating a Valentine’s Day Gift Giving Guide featuring local businesses)
- social media posting
Learn how to use a content calendar to improve your content marketing
In addition to these things, you may want to consider the following to help you become more organized.
Implement a filing name system for documents that way every document is saved under the same format. It makes finding things much easier. For instance, you could decide to save event documents under name/year/item like Awards banquet/2020/invitation.
If you like to keep multiple versions for some reason, you’ll also want to add “final” to the final version of whatever you’re drafting.
Branding is important to your work at the chamber and creating templates for some of your posts can bring a unified look to your branding. Save templates in the cloud or somewhere where they are accessible. The same goes for your chamber colors. Make sure your staff has access to the exact color codes so they don’t accidentally select “something close.”
A professional look is not the only reason to do this either. Branding saves time both on the creation side and when someone sees your content. They can immediately recognize it as coming from the chamber, and thus, being important.
Past Legislative Policies or Agendas
It’s helpful to know what the chamber supported in the past if for no other reason than someone may inquire or a proposed policy could be in conflict with a past standing and an individual may ask you why the change in support.
If your new chamber is a little disorganized, or if, frankly, your chamber is a mess, a methodical process to implement these strategies will go a long way toward getting you back on track.